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Get A Grip

We originally ran this after the shuttle disaster, but after the upset in New York, the basic sentiment seems worth repeating.
Judging by our e-mail, and by comments on the bulletin board, you'd think
that losing a basketball game was a much more serious tragedy than anything else
that might have happened this weekend. Would that it were true.
Clearly, some of you people need some perspective.

Look, we like that Duke
wins a lot, and wins big. And we like that the expectation is there that
Duke will win big. We want that, and so do you, we hope. But
are Duke fans only interested in wins? We sure hope not.

Duke has always been
about athletic excellence in conjunction with academic excellence. Winning
is wonderful, and Duke has done a lot of it over the past two decades- last
four, really - but it's not an entitlement. And more to the point, those
of you who feel obliged to rip kids who don't perform to your satisfaction
- where do you get off?

What these kids do is pretty mind-boggling. Yes, that
includes the winning, but more to the point, it includes living with a highly
regimented life, where total physical and mental commitment is required.
Most of us couldn't begin to have that level of dedication, much less the level
of success these kids have. Success is of course measured by wins, but it
is also measured by degrees earned and lives built.

It's also
measured by failure - not failure itself, but how people deal with it. As
much as we'd all like to think that Duke in the Top 5 is inevitable, it's not,
and when Duke is less than that, it's no reason to get bitter.

These kids bust
their asses every day in everything they do, and as far as we're concerned, the
only people qualified to critique them are guys who have been in the same
situation. Among our readers, we'd count Jay Bilas, Kenny Dennard, Carroll
Youngkin, Shane Battier, and Scott Goetsch as guys who could look at this group
and have enough knowledge and experience to say, you know what? Those guys
aren't doing all they can. They're disappointing. I don't like how they
do....why, in my get the picture. And it's cool; they're
qualified to make those judgments.

We're not Pollyannas. We know people
bond with teams - we sure have - and put a lot of their own hopes into their
champions. We definitely do that as well, and we were tremendously
disappointed after the FSU game.

What we don't understand is this apparent
need to vilify. We don't want to be judged like that by our bosses or families,
yet we don't hesitate to do it ourselves - and to teenagers.

What we'd hope
for from Duke fans is a bit of perspective. We've had an amazing run the
last few years, but it is not normal, and no one stays that far above the rest
indefinitely. Don't get us wrong, we're not saying that we don't like it;
we're not even saying that we should accept a less-lofty standard than what
we've gotten used to.

But come on, these are kids, and even if
they lose games, they are doing extraordinary things and are in the process of
becoming remarkable people, and they deserve our support.

Are we
disappointed with painful losses? Yes. But win or lose, we like what Duke
basketball stands for. One characteristic which gets less play than others
is resilience. They'll bounce back with a great attitude and effort.
We just wish more of the fans would.

Next time they lose, get up in the
morning, put on your Duke togs, and go out and face the world. There's a
lot to be proud of.